A skilled satirist with a talent for biting humor, Greenland creates fully realized characters that quickly reveal themselves as complex renderings of the human condition - at its very best, and utter worst. I Regret Everything explores happiness and heartache with a healthy dose of skepticism, and an understanding that the reality of love encompasses life, death, iambic pentameter, regret, trusts and estates.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2014-10-13
- Reviewer: Staff
Jeremy Best, a lawyer by day, also moonlights as a poet under the name Jinx Bell, publishing occasionally (if implausibly) in The Paris Review. Spaulding, a 19-year-old woman who's a fan of Bell's poems, figures out that the writer behind them is Jeremy, who happens to be working in her father's Manhattan law firm. The restless and unpredictable Spaulding playfully pursues Jeremy. In alternating chapters, Jeremy and Spaulding reveal their respective perspectives on the unfolding events, so that readers learn of their private struggles, including a particularly tragic shock for Jeremy he initially tries to keep secret. Greenland (The Angry Buddhist), a former writer for the TV show Big Love, has a clear and snappy handle on the New York City worlds of M.F.A.s, M.F.A. dropouts, and poetry workshops, as well as their counterpoint in the Sutton Place penthouses of Jeremy's wealthy clients. This much is convincing and entertaining early on, though one does question the whole premise, which has been done so many times before: why must the 30-something lawyer find vibrancy and renewal in a teenage girl? As the second half of the novel slides into chaos and Jeremy and Spaulding consummate their relationship, investment in either character becomes tough to maintain. While Greenland is attempting an earnest, serious meditation on love or art or mortality, the book often feels like a silly romantic comedy that can't escape its genre. (Feb.)
Behind an affair
If you’ve been watching Showtime’s “The Affair,” you may see some similarities in I Regret Everything. Writer and producer (“Big Love”) Seth Greenland’s new novel tells the story of a relationship that some might find inappropriate, from the first-person point of view of both parties. There’s melodrama, and a subplot that involves a crime. But there is also real warmth, wit and irreverence woven throughout this thoroughly readable tale.
The book kicks off with our first narrator, Jeremy Best, a Brooklyn-dwelling trusts and estates lawyer who expresses his lyrical side through poetry written under the (somewhat laughable) pen name of Jinx Bell. Aside from this literary diversion, his life seems rather dull and empty.
Enter Spaulding Simonson, the boss’ pretty and precocious 19-year-old daughter, a budding poet herself who has somehow uncovered Jeremy’s secret identity. She has her own very real troubles: a bitterly broken family, a history of depression and deep loneliness.
As soon as they meet, it’s obvious there’s chemistry between the two. It’s also apparent that Jeremy’s monotonous existence is about to undergo a radical change, despite the real risks involved.
A smart reader may worry about the clichéd premise. But Greenland is smart, and so are his characters. Their inherent likability, along with the humor that’s a welcome contrast to the more maudlin aspects of the story, easily save this sparkling read.